December 15, 2016
Brock Lesnar has agreed to a settlement with the Nevada State Athletic Commission stemming from his failed drug tests post-UFC 200 per Brett Okamoto. The settlement was confirmed at Thursday’s monthly commission meeting.
Lesnar will pay $250,000 and serve a 1 year suspension retroactive to July 2016.
The $250,000 is 10% of Lesnar’s reported payout of $2.5 million from UFC 200. The settlement closes any inquiry as to the drug test failures and the alleged substances found in the tests although he still will have to deal with USADA. But, one would think Lesnar will settle as well. Whether or not we’ll see Lesnar back in the UFC will be an interesting question.
December 12, 2016
It appears that settlements have been brokered on behalf of 3 UFC fighters and the Nevada Athletic Commission. MMA Fighting reports that the NAC announced Nate Diaz, Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar are scheduled to appear for hearing on their “proposed adjudication agreements” at the December 15th commission meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jones settled with the NAC on a one year suspension which would put him back in the Octagon by July 6, 2017 at the earliest. He also was given a one year suspension by USADA.
Diaz hearing stems from his role in the UFC 202 pre-fight press conference.
Lesnar’s complaint stems from two failed USADA drug tests after UFC 200.
The anticipated settlements reflect the fact that no one wants to test the uncertainty of the punishment that the NAC may hand out. Conor McGregor has filed a Petition for Review of his NAC fine of $75,000. Depending on the length of the settlements, it likely means that the fighters will be able to plan their next fights. In the case of Lesnar, it’s not clear whether he may fight in the UFC again.
December 11, 2016
With an ultimatum made by plaintiffs’ attorneys on behalf of the fighters suing Zuffa to the MMAAA, Dana White appears to be the winner at this point.
In an interview with TSN, White finds the current state of organizing fighters hilarious. He has specifically called out Bjorn Rebney, the former Bellator head. On the UFC Unfiltered podcast, he referred to him as “Bjork.”
Last week, the MMAAA was unveiled with Rebney as an unpaid strategic adviser according to the organization. This week, plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC, et al. sent a “cease and desist” letter to Rebney on behalf of MMAAA advising them that they were the court appointed representative of the class of fighters that Rebney’s group is seeking. Moreover, it was revealed in the letter signed by Eric Cramer, that Rebney met with the plaintiffs’ attorneys at CAA offices in New York. The meeting was to determine whether the two sides would come together. However, according to Cramer, Rebney wanted input as well as a portion of costs related to his fees associated with putting together what was to become MMAAA. Of course, MMAAA denies this.
White has called Rebney a “bottom-feeder” stating that he is out to make money implying that he does not have the interests of fighters in mind.
With the PFA, MMAAA and MMAFA seeking to advocate for the rights of fighters but competing with each other at the same time, White has to find it amusing. While each of these groups are seeking to bargain with the UFC for better pay, pensions and other interests, they need a unified front of fighters. But, with competing interests on the fighter side, the UFC has no obligation to negotiate with any of these groups. Aside from the lawsuit, which UFC lawyers are dealing with, the UFC will likely just wait and see if there is any need to address any of these groups.
December 8, 2016
Conor McGregor has filed a Petition for Judicial Review in Clark County, Nevada for his fine levied by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his water-bottle throwing incident this past August.
Per MMA Junkie, McGregor filed the Petition for Judicial Review on November 18, 2016 per Clark County Court Records. McGregor is represented by Jennifer Goldstein. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is represented by Caroline Bateman.
McGregor reportedly made $3 million from UFC 202 not counting undisclosed bonuses or PPV points.
The state attorney general originally recommended a $25,000 fine but the commission believed that was not sufficient.
The appeal of a commission ruling results in filing a lawsuit in the superior court which is what McGregor has done. You might recall that Wanderlei Silva filed a similar petition for review in 2015 related to his lifetime ban. The state court ruled in Silva’s favor, but the order was to remand back to the commission. Silva appealed to the state Supreme Court but that did not work out. There is potential for McGregor’s commission penalty to be reversed but it will likely mean that the court will send it back to the commission for to re-determine the penalty. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
December 7, 2016
The MMAAA issued an “urgent news” statement as it appears that lawyers in the UFC antitrust lawsuit have issued a “cease and desist” letter from signing up fighters from joining the organization.
The statement was issued by Jim Quinn and Eric Hochstadt, outside counsel for the Mixed Martial Arts Association:
As Georges St-Pierre, Donald Cerrone, T.J. Dillashaw, Tim Kennedy, and Cain Velasquez made clear in the official public announcement last week, the Mixed Martial Arts Athlete Association (“MMAAA”) is all about looking out for the fighters and their well-being long-term.
Yesterday, the MMAAA received a “cease and desist” letter from a group of lawyers seeking to stop the MMAAA from signing up fighters and sticking up for their rights against the UFC and its owners WME-IMG. The MMAAA will do no such thing. Those lawyers – who represent only a few fighters – are focused on getting some money out of one case, of which they seek a significant portion for themselves. Those lawyers do not speak for anyone else, and certainly not the MMAAA and all the fighters the organization represents now and will quickly grow to represent in the sport.
Over a year ago, those same lawyers reached out to the MMAAA to join forces with us. We had a meeting and made clear that the MMAAA’s primary focus would be on achieving three core goals: 1) substantially increasing UFC fighter pay to 50%; 2) securing all-encompassing long term benefits for UFC fighters; and 3) a settlement to compensate past and current UFC fighters for all of the UFC’s wrongs. To achieve these goals for the benefit of the fighters, we also made clear the MMAAA needed to receive a percentage of a monetary settlement to cover the costs to fund the MMAAA for staffing and attorneys both for past work getting to this point and the long fight ahead. The lawyers made clear that they did not share the MMAAA’s vision. They are focused on a short-term monetary recovery, of which they will seek 33%, and then they are gone from this sport. We parted ways at that point.
The MMAAA is all about the fighters benefitting when the UFC is finally forced to take a powerful group of the fighters seriously. The MMAAA will be executing on that plan and will not be stopped in this effort on behalf of fighters.
Although the lawyers identified in the statement were not named, but they represent the fighters in the antitrust lawsuit, Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC, et al.
The letter issues that Rebney’s group cease and desist from operating which essentially means for it to stop pursuing fighters to join the organization. It argues that the court has granted the attorneys to represent the class of fighters and MMAAA’s effort would be interfering.
Notably, the letter states that Rebney’s group wanted to be a part of the UFC Class Action and met with CAA in New York. At the meeting, which took place in October 15, 2015, Rebney revealed MMAAA and stated that they would start another antitrust action if certain demands were not met. The letter also reveals that Rebney and MMAAA might be contemplating an MMA promotion.
The letter gives Rebney and MMAAA December 9th to cease and desist from operations.
The plot thickens. It’s clear that when Rebney cited a “settlement” from the UFC, it would spark concern from the PFA and the plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit. Clearly, the plaintiffs have invested a great deal thus far in litigating against Zuffa. For MMAAA to come in at this point, and based on what Cramer reveals in his letter, this is unsettling to the plaintiffs and their attorneys. Of course, MMAAA explains in their statement the reasons for seeking costs related to its own work on behalf of the fighters. What is the truth? Hard to say, but what we can gather is that there may be another lawsuit on the horizon if MMAAA and the plaintiffs in the antitrust case cannot find a way to settle the issue.
December 6, 2016
Bloody Elbow reports that the UFC threatened not to participate at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on MMA and the possible expansion of the Ali Act set for Thursday. The power play was due to Randy Couture’s participation as a witness at the hearing.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Republican congressman Markwayne Mullin, the UFC attempted to influence the hearing by refusing to participate at the hearing. The hearing is before the subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.
The witness list is now public and it appears that based on Congressman Mullin’s statement, the UFC threatened to withdraw the presence of Jeff Novitsky from the hearing. Novitsky, who is the Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance will be speaking on behalf of the UFC. The UFC denied Mullin’s statement that they attempted to rescind its participation via Novitsky.
It will be an interesting hearing on Thursday as Couture, Novitsky, Lydia Robertson (Treasurer of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) and concussion researcher Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University will be testifying. Mullin’s assertion that the UFC did not want Couture to testify could be true. The UFC and Couture have had contentious past and the UFC likely does not want him to speak about his side of the story. Whether or not the UFC attempted to get Couture off of the witness list is another issue. Certainly, the company has lobbyists working on its behalf and they have talked to legislators including co-sponsors of the Ali Act Expansion Act.
December 4, 2016
It appears that Gawker Media, LLC is turning on former Editor in Chief A.J. Daulerio per an article in the Wall Street Journal. In legal papers filed in the Gawker’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, the company cites to the Florida jury verdict that awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million as violating employment terms while Daulerio was with the company.
The company is seeking to sever its ties with Daulerio as it is rejecting his request that Gawker continue to pay his legal fees over the fight over the video.
After the judgment, Gawker and its founder Nick Denton filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Most of Gawker websites were sold at auction to Univision for $135 million. In legal filings, Gawker argued that Daulerio was to blame and cited the belief that Daulerio maintain that the Hogan video stay online despite the former pro wrestler’s contention it be removed.
Hogan and Gawker have reached a settlement of the jury verdict but the parties are now looking to how to fund Hogan’s $31 million settlement.
The WSJ article suggests that the move by Gawker is a strategy for the company to force Daulerio to accept a settlement of terms to pay the Hogan settlement. Daulerio is said to owe $100,000 as part of the payment for the settlement with Hogan. Apparently, Daulerio has not signed off on the deal due to “how he can discuss Mr. Bollea’s case.” Daulerio, who was individually named in the original lawsuit, has considered appealing the decision on his own.
Gawker creditors have until Monday to vote on the settlement plan.
It will be interesting to see what happens on Monday. It was clear that this was a possible outcome when Gawker filed for bankruptcy. Despite defending Daulerio in the civil trial, they now are turning to the interests of its creditors in the bankruptcy case. As an individual, it would be hard to see how Daulerio could still fund his own appeal of the Hogan judgment. Will keep you updated.
December 3, 2016
The Congressional subcommittee on energy and commerce will have a hearing this Tuesday on the Expansion of the Muhammad Ali Act. According to the notice, the hearing is entitled, “Mixed Martial Arts: Issues and Perspectives.”
No witnesses have been announced and are by invitation only. A webcast will be available for public viewing.
Republican Oklahoma congressional representative Markwayne Mullin was the primary sponsor of the bill introduced last May. Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill which seeks to expand the current Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to combat sports. Specifically, the bill is addressed to help mixed martial artists.
Zuffa has employed lobbyists to combat the passage of this bill. The bill will likely meet stiff opposition despite the bill coming from a Republican. Current UFC exec, Ari Emmanuel, met with President-elect Donald Trump last month. While no specifics of the meeting were revealed, Emmanuel and the President-elect have a past business relationship. One might suspect that Emmanuel’s relationship may influence support to quash the expansion of the Ali Act.
Since the sale of the UFC to WME-IMG, more and more fighters have come forward to discuss their need for better pay and benefits. Two organizations, the Professional Fighters Association and the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association have come forward seeking support to organize in hopes of negotiating with the UFC on behalf of the contracted fighters. The two join the MMAFA as organizations that continue to seek better conditions for fighters. The MMAFA is an active advocate for the expansion of the Ali Act.
The hearing should be interesting as to who will testify and what will be said about the expansion of the Ali Act. The sale of the UFC will likely come up as well as the current antitrust lawsuit. The question is whether the expansion of the Ali Act would truly help MMA fighters. What will interest me is how educated the legislators will be on the sport of MMA and how the application of the bill to MMA will have on the sport.
November 29, 2016
Leslie Smith has written an open letter in which she states she is no longer supporting the Professional Fighters Association. Per MMA Fighting, labor lawyer Lucas Middlebrook is also severing ties with the organization he helped found with agent Jeff Borris.
The information of a possible board of fighters was leaked to the media which appears to be the reason for the parting of ways. Eleven names of current UFC fighters were revealed.
Smith stated that she helped compile a list of potential fighters to target for the board. The list, according to Smith, was to be confidential but the names as well as other information about the PFA appeared in an MMA Junkie article. She was also upset at the fact that the PFA intended to set up an agent advisory board in addition to the fighter board.
Smith wrote a letter about the situation in which she proposes the next steps in organizing MMA fighters.
Middlebrook left for the same disclosures made. Borris does not know how the leak of information happened.
Altruism or naivete on the part of Smith? Smith is passionate about organizing fighters but it appears that there was a misunderstanding regarding her role with PFA. Whether or not there was an understanding about the confidentiality of the information passed on by Smith is a question that someone at the PFA could answer. Obviously, the Junkie article revealed a lot about PFA’s goals as well as the potential for a board. This might be seen as showing its hand too early. It also might be a way to gain some PR for the organization at a time when it needed to gain traction with fighters. The concern about disclosing names for a board is that it might cause discord between the fighters and the UFC. Middlebrook leaving PFA also reflects a lack of cohesion in the organization less than 3 months into its venture. With the anticipated announcement of another attempt to organize fighters coming up on Wednesday, PFA may lose steam even before it begins.
November 21, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump met with his former Hollywood agent, and current UFC owner Ari Emanuel on Sunday.
Emanuel met the President-elect at his New Jersey golf course. Trump touted Emmanuel as “the king of Hollywood.” The substance of the meeting was not revealed.
Despite being a longtime Democratic fund-raiser, Trump called Emanuel a “great friend.” Dana White spoke on behalf of Trump at the Republican National Convention and was seen at an GOP party on election night.
Perhaps the meeting included some talk about Emmanuel’s new venture as head of the UFC. He is one of the new faces of the organization since WME-IMG took over from the Fertitta brothers in July.
One of the relevant issues that the President-elect may deal with is the attempt to amend the existing Muhammad Ali Act to include combat sports. The UFC has lobbied vehemently against it. It has enlisted Farragut PR to monitor the Ali Act on behalf of the UFC.
The bill was introduced in late May by Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin. In late September, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protection as set forth by the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
With the new administration set to come in this January, the likelihood that the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act passes is low. Certainly, having President-elect Trump as an ally will help Emmanuel and the UFC. Moreover, one would think that a Republican dominated House and Senate would persuade Representative Mullin to shelve the bill or amend it to make it more friendly for promoters.